June 19, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forevermore. AMEN. (2 Peter 3.17-18)
“Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, God’s Son.’” (Matthew 16.16)
I have accepted the following question to guide my reflections on the scripture above this past week:
“What might Peter have meant when he directed Christ followers to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?’”
I have suggested four aspects, thus far: forgiveness, repentance, the pursuit of the truth and alignment with the cornerstone of faith in God. I do not, for one minute, think they these four aspects can actually exist independently in the secular world or the non-secular world. In fact, you will hear the first three aspects in some form in counselling, leadership development, team-building, interpersonal communications and business. But, the critical aspect is the fourth. Without embracing it, the other three are limited in their effect. That is, in effect, what the current culture and climate of the world wants to propose is right, just, fair and wise: to live without faith in God. The whole drive to take prayer out of schools, courthouses, governments and ultimately out of our daily life transactions, is the attempt to promote living without faith in God. I say it is the desire to live without true accountability. To make accountability conditional and subjective in order to meet the “I want” construct of the modern world is to propel us down the road to “no one gets.” David saw that happening in his day when Saul was King of Israel. Saul had the potential to be a great king but he never realized it because it wasn’t what he wanted. I don’t know if Saul ever really knew what he wanted. Because of that lack of grounding, he failed himself and all of Israel. Sadly, God appointed him king because of the people Saul was meant to guide and rule over. Their petitions to God and Samuel said this “We want a king like all the nations around us have.” And that is exactly what they got. What they said they wanted wasn’t what they wanted after all. How experience can be a harsh instructor!
But, God had a better plan. He also anointed David to become King of Israel. He wasn’t anything like Saul at all. He was short. Saul was tall. He was active. Saul was passive (maybe passive aggressive). He was faithful. Saul was faithless. He was determined to do what was right in the eyes of God. Saul was determined to do what was right in his own eyes. David was courageous. Saul was cowardly. Because of all this, Saul’s reactions and responses to David’s presence were violent and mimic much of what we see in today’s world and for the same reasons. The culture and climate of the world bears a strong resemblance to Saul. If unchecked, the fate of the world will be the same! All Saul wanted, he never got. What Saul feared the most is what he got. Tragedy.
But, David speaks of his life in a different manner. Far from perfect, take the killing of Uriah the Hittite to cover up the affair with Bathsheba and her pregancy by David for example, David lived in the midst of forgiveness, repentance, the pursuit of the truth and being aligned with faith in God. We can even say “faith in Jesus, God’s Messiah.” (Read Psalm 110 for reference) He had this to say about “want”: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not experience want. Jesus said a similar sentiment as the rubric of faith-filled living in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and you shall not experience want.” The culture and climate of faith which is intended to be the benchmark of the Church is opposite that of the world in which the Church exists and is called to minister to. The Church’s culture and climate should say “I shall not want.” The world’s culture and climate says “I want, I will have and you will give me what I want or I will take it from you.” The world says “I want and I will take it by force.” The Church is intended to say “I shall not want and I will be willing to die to prove it.”
Are we willing? Are we truly Christ-like in our nature, purpose and identity? When Jesus was first introduced to Peter the fisherman running his father’s business, Jesus saw the potential in him as His Father saw it. He was introduced to Jesus as Simon bar Jonah. Jesus introduced him as Cephas (Aramaic), or Petros (Greek), both of which mean “The Rock” or “Foundation.” Simon, a derivative of Simeon, actually comes from the Aramaic Sh’ma, meaning “One who hears, listens and obeys the Word of God.” We hear that word from the Old Testament as the title for the “Father of all Commandments.” Jesus brings it to our mind answering the Scribe and Pharisees’ question: “Which is the greatest of all commandments?” His response was “Sh’ma.” We know it more fully as “You should love Yahweh Elohim with all your heart, soul and mind; and without fail to love your neighbor as yourself.” In the mountains above Cesarea Philippi, probably at Mount Hermon where the headwaters of the Jordan River are located at the Dan Springs, Jesus would again address Simon (the listener and follower of truth) as Petros (the foundation rock). Jesus had asked the disciples “Who do people say that I AM?” A number of responses were offered but Peter’s was singular in focus and filled with accountability. He said “You are the Messiah, the Son of Yahweh Elohim.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you (not so much as thanking him but acknowledging that Peter was imbued with seizing on the truth), Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in Heaven. Because of your faith I call you Petros, the Rock, and on that I will build My Church.” In that moment, the Church was conceived. It would be delivered out of the “womb” and into the world in the season of Resurrection and Pentecost. Peter had aligned himself with Jesus of Nazareth whom he called M’shach, Messiah (Aramaic) or Christ (Greek). Their ministry together in discipleship was manifesting the “I shall not want” culture and climate. It was intended to be the construct of the Church through its infancy and into its maturity.
It should be the same for the modern Church. All that was needed would be provided. All that was provided was intended to meet the want of our lives. Strange how we have allowed the table to be turned. David spoke of “You have set before me a banquet table while my enemies surround me and anointed my head with oil streaming down as the waters from Mount Hermon.” Today, the world, and sadly many parts of the Church, imagine banquet tables and then expect them to be filled. Their wants and needs exceed the resource which God provides. Can God provide more? Of course, God can. But, just because God can do a thing doesn’t mean He will or that doing so is in our best interest. We are called to live by faith and not by sight. We are called to make the most that is given to us. We are not meant to be consumed with wanting more than we actually need. The world creates the deficit thinking that is pervasive. The kingdom offers the fulfillment thinking that is provisional (providing and purposeful.) The kingdom contruct happens when we remain aligned with the “Word of God.” The world construct happens whenever we do not.
It is past time, mighty ones of God, for us to embrace our name change by faith. We are called to “build upon the rock of faith” and not on the shifting sands of the world. We are called to be “Petros,” The Rock, of “Christ,” The Savior. In Him alone shall we have the abundant life that is needed meeting the true need and want of our lives! The good news is “we can be that” to the glory of God and for the good of the nations. Just believe it and receive it.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER: Father God, maker of Heaven and earth, we bow before You and give thanks. You have chosen to reveal Your Self to us so that we might know ourselves in spirit and in truth. You have made it possible for us to build a strong body of faith “12 ways” with enrichment, encouragement and investment of the Word and the Spirit. Thank You for cultivating the environment of grace around us so that we can be better disciples and share the Good News with the world. Come with us, Lord, we pray as we give thanks that “no want shall we know for the Lord is our Shepherd.” AMEN.